Stock Footage: How And When To Use It Correctly

9th April 2021 No comments
Stock Footage & Photography

Stock Footage is footage that’s been recorded by other people for use in your video projects. Unlike bespoke videography, stock footage hasn’t been filmed specifically for your video project. Instead, you can purchase it from stock footage websites like Shutterstock, iStockphoto or Envato.

The amount of stock footage that’s available can make it seem like a silver bullet. Why hire a professional camera crew when there’s so much stock footage available? “I can save money and make a video with stock footage”, you may be thinking… wrongly!

Here are a few reasons why that might not be the best approach. (As well as our thoughts on when stock footage works best.)

A Matter Of Means And Money

Stock footage can be really handy if you’ve got grand visions that are constrained by your budget.

If you want your video to start with an aerial shot of the London skyline, stock footage might be your only option. It can be expensive to hire a helicopter – or even a drone – to fly over central London. Yet there are tonnes of clips of the London skyline on most stock footage websites. And they often cost less than a return train ticket from Southampton to Waterloo.

Equally, it’s easy to find stock clips for other famous cities and locations around the world. Whether you’re after a clip of New York, Paris or a rainforest, getting a clip from a stock website will cost far less than travelling to these places yourself. Admittedly, it’s not as fun, but it’s far more practical!

Sometimes you’re simply unable to get a shot you need. Maybe you’re making a video about the environment but don’t have access to a waste recycling facility. There’s probably a stock clip of one. That’s really handy.

Other times you might not be able to get access to a location because of factors beyond your control. Maybe there’s a global pandemic happening. Your only option in that case is to use existing stock footage.

The Limitations Of Stock Footage

Where stock footage falls down is detail. By nature, it’s designed to be generic and non-specific to any business. After all, the author of the stock footage wants as many sales as possible. They’re not going to achieve that by filming a clip that’s only relevant to a handful of companies.

Although you can find plenty of clips of people in offices having meetings, they’re not your offices and it’s not your team. Often this is very obvious and using these clips as if they were filmed at your company can make your whole offering feel inauthentic.

Additionally, you’re unlikely to find stock clips of a specific product or piece of equipment. And you might find that other details might not be right for your uses either. Maybe you have a strict PPE policy where staff must wear high vis jackets, hard hats and gloves at all times, but relevant stock clips only feature people in high vis jackets and hard hats. (No gloves.)

The only way to get around these limitations is to have bespoke video content filmed for you. This means bringing in a professional camera crew – although this isn’t as daunting or expensive as you may think. (Let’s talk about it!)

Quality Differences

Another thing to consider with stock footage is the quality of stock clips. This needs to be consistent with any other footage that you’re using in your video project.

On a technical level, you’ll find some stock footage will be 4K, some will be HD, and some may be lower quality. Stock clips also have different frame rates and colouration, depending on when and where they were filmed. If these properties don’t match with your existing footage, it can result in editing errors that take time to fix. Or this can lead to awkward transitions that pull the viewer out of the finished video.

As for the content itself, there’s a lot of variation in stock footage. Many clips have been professionally filmed, but there’s also a lot of amateur handiwork in some clips. If your production has a lower budget, splicing in a highly-produced stock clip in the middle can be jarring for the viewer. Equally, you don’t want to use low quality stock clips in the middle of a professionally produced, cinematic video.

The Devil’s In The Detail

As we’ve established, stock footage works best when you use it sparingly and broadly. Its great for visually referencing something that exists, but isn’t specifically yours. And sweeping footage of a city skyline or difficult-to-reach locales can be great for a little extra impact.

But trying to pass off a group of professional models as being on your payroll isn’t going to do you any favours. Your customers need to be able to trust that you can do what you say you can do. If you use stock footage to lie to them, they might think twice about choosing you.

Whenever possible, if you want to produce videos that really shine, it’s always worth shooting your own footage. If it’s high quality, bespoke footage that you need, Southpoint Films are ready to make your visions a reality.

If you’d like to work together and add a little extra flair to your productions, get in touch with our team to see how we can help your business produce the best video content possible.

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